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Monday Message Board

January 16th, 2017

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

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  1. Ernestine Gross
    January 16th, 2017 at 21:35 | #1

    Not sure my post fits into the MMB or the sandpit because it seems to me it doesn’t quite fit into either category. My post invites comments on some ideas that have been brewing in my head recently.

    By way of introduction, some readers may have noticed I don’t like –ism words such as communism, capitalism, neoliberalism, Thatcherism, …., . These words say too much and too little at the same time such that I end up understanding nothing. I don’t like economic ‘schools of thought’ either – supply side economics, Keynesian economics, monetarism (2 don’t likes at once), Austrian economics and all the neo- and new- versions thereof. In contrast to the -ism words, there was no shortage of formal education I endured; I can’t claim I understand nothing of each of these schools of thought. I had time to reflect and here are my preliminary conclusions:

    1. The schools of thought share a methodology. Each school of thought arises from the founding member(s) observing something and then generalise their conclusions to that of a model of how ‘the economy’ works.
    2. Whether or not the thus generated model is linked to prior models is ultimately irrelevant, even though typically there are lengthy introduction as to why that which is ‘mainstream’ now is not working.
    3. Periods of lengthy debates, supported with empirical data or not, follow until someone modifies the model in question to become a neo- or new version.
    4. The purpose of the debates is, ostensibly, to persuade decision makers (people in various positions) to adopt their model.
    5. I can think of specific empirical situations where supply side inspired policy measures make sense to me. For example, if for whatever reasons a region or a larger city has lost many firms (companies, ‘employers’) – say Detroit to conjure up pictures of industrial wasteland – such that the ‘local economy’ is in ruin, then it would make sense to me to give tax concessions to companies to entice them to do something in this local economy. I can think of examples where Keynesian type deficit financed government expenditure (demand) makes sense. For example after the GFC. And so forth.
    6. My preliminary conclusion is each of these schools of thought provides some useful insights for specific situations – special cases so to speak. This is not surprising because of 1 above. All of them become worse than useless – counterproductive – exactly when special cases become ‘schools of thought’ (items 2, 3 and 4 above). Insights that are conditional on specific circumstances become dogma.
    7. I’ve learned most from purely curiosity driven theoretical research, which to many people seems like stuff that is useless for ‘the real world’. Well, I believe it can help not to get lost in the real world of competing dogmas.

  2. Ikonoclast
    January 17th, 2017 at 06:14 | #2

    Interesting thoughts, Ernestine. I largely agree with that… and yet I remain rather Marxian in my thinking.I still use “ism” words (like socialism and capitalism) and I consider these words do mean something and do point to real models. By “real models” in this context I mean constructs that really are models but whether they are models in a prescriptive sense or a descriptive sense is often open to debate, especially in the economic context. Whether they are models that will work if applied to the real world, or collapse in a heap, is also open to debate.

    There appear to be strong elements of realism and pragmatism in your approach. If I might sum this up, you are saying something like: “The world is too complex to understand fully. Any model will be inadequate to the reality. In economics, any relational theory (in the hard scientific sense) which seeks to relate the time-space positions and properties of all existents (considered as constants, variables and possibly agents) to all other existents by all ‘paths of influence’ (as cause and/or information propagation) through the system, and thus gain a whole of system understanding, will be doomed to failure. Or at least, if not doomed to failure in principle, it is doomed to failure in practice by being distorted into ideology and used dogmatically and prescriptively.”

    My contention would be, that if we adopt your thesis in the arena of theories and models and then adopt or develop some method of investigation in the theoretical economic sphere consistent with that thesis, then we would permanently forego the possibility of developing a scientific relational theory in the economic sphere. In modern physics, the hardest of hard sciences, relational theory is the gold standard of investigation. The overarching assumption (a priori justification) is one of system monism. The entire shebang (the cosmos in the case of physics) is considered as a single, unified system of existence.

    In our case, as we have a world or global economy now, we have a world system. It is incumbent on us, I believe, to attempt to understand that system as a system; meaning it is a unified system in the monist or holism sense. Saying it is a system does not preclude the possibility and indeed the fact, that there are many sub-systems of the whole system. Sub-systems (like countries, regions, towns, individuals) can act semi-independently. This means in effect that they can have some unique internal conditions and if they are agents they can generate some unique actions or local conditions. At the same time, they are never entirely independent of the global system.

    I can adapt something I have been writing to this problem arena.

    1. The global economy is best understood as a single, connected system.

    2. This system is a “real system” in the sense that modern physics uses that term.

    3. All sub-systems (countries, regions, towns, individuals)of the entire real system are real systems.

    4. Each system or sub-systems is “a complex of interacting parts and processes which are interrelated in such a way that interactions between them sustain a boundary-maintaining entity”. (The quote is not an exact quote but is adapted from Ervin László.)

    5. The system, sub-system or “entity” will have a consistent or identifiable internal order or nature be it static or dynamic, evolving or devolving.

    5. Each system boundary of an entity (which maintains internal conditions and order) is also an interface in that matter, energy and information may pass through the interface.

    6. The definitions of matter, energy or matter-energy are those of modern physics.

    7. Information is any pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns.

    This approach can bring results (in my opinion) if we look at matters in the following light. In systems involving humans we may discern the operations of Laws, Rules and Axioms. We require a specific definition for each of these terms for this investigation which follows the principle of “complex system monism”: everything under investigation (the global economy in this case) is best understood as a single, complex system.

    Definitions in any field of investigation are often specific to that field, meaning specific to that method of thought or investigation. The term “Law” means something quite different in physics to the meaning of that term in jurisprudence. The universalized definitions I give below are necessary, in the manner I make them, to suit the methods and objectives of my investigation. This investigation is developed from strict complex systems monism and seeks to combine, in one analytical framework, the investigation and elucidation of the interactions of formal systems and real systems. My definitions below do not imply that standard definitions in other fields are wrong. Definitions are system specific, as stated above, and internally system-consistent if derived correctly and applied correctly. My investigation needs universalized definitions as it spans, in a broad, syncretist fashion all major disciplines of concern to economics (involving as it does in many ways the full lives of modern humans); meaning we must consider physics, mathematics, language, science, law, custom, belief and finally political economy as ideology, politics and economics orthodox and heterodox.

    In this analysis:

    (A) A “Law” means any discovered, reliable law of real physical systems as in “a law of physics”. The Laws of Thermodynamics are clear examples. These Laws are “brute facts” of our existence and our cosmos so far as we can determines and, if correctly derived by science, the scientific formulation can be taken as correct and real to a high level of dependability.

    (B) A “Rule” is a something conventionally set by humans by fiat, dictate, consensus or custom, and which might be set otherwise. It is a rule that people should drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia and a rule that people should drive on the right-hand side of the road in the USA. In each country, this is contained in a code often called “Road Rules”. However, general terminology (outside the stricter definitions given here) can be confusing. These might also be referred to as regulations or laws. In the criminal code, laws against murder are in fact rules against under my definition. The rule might be set otherwise and indeed it is for issues from self-defence to declared war. It is important to remember that the legislated laws of our legal system are in fact rules. They are formal system rules which might be set otherwise.

    (C) An “Axiom” in this analysis (short really for “Axiomatic Result”) is something which unavoidably must happen (or whose probability of happening is very high) if rules in a rule set (rule being defined as above) are observed by the great majority of people and enforced by the authorities, especially in the contrasting cases of compliance and contravention. If the great majority observe the drive-on-the-left rule and it is enforced, then in the case of an individual contravention being persisted in by someone driving on the right-hand side continuously then one of two outcomes is near-axiomatic under these definitions. There will be a collision, most likely head-on, or the person will be pulled over by the police and charged with dangerous driving. These outcomes are significant in that both are real physical events. Physics can intervene finally when formal rules are ignored. In this example, a real world physical event might occur like a collision. The police will use physical force if necessary; blocks or “stingers” on the road and personal force on a resisting or fleeing person.

    It is not always the case that a physical result is the first axiomatic result of formal system operations. Other formal system axiomatic results may occur first. However, these formal system axiomatic results result in a tendency in the formal system which will sooner or later lead to real system physical results. It is also not the case that only a contravention of formal rules leads to an eventual physical result. Compliance with formal rules also leads sooner or later to real physical results, be those as intended consequences or unintended consequences. A clear example of some of these more complex aspects is contained in economist Thomas Piketty’s now famous conditional statement (written in English not maths as this blog board interprets some mathematical symbols as text mode instructions);

    If return on investment is greater than economic growth then economic inequality increases.

    Piketty here discovered (via both theoretical proofs and extensive evidence from historical empirical data) an immanent (intrinsic or endogenous) axiomatic result, in my terminology an “Axiom”, of the dominant extant financial-economic formal system as an accounting-legal system. This is an axiomatic result of the operations of capital under the current financial-accounting-legal framework of the really existing capitalist component of our mixed economies. This axiomatic result can only be avoided, within the extant rule settings, by keeping economic growth above returns on capital. If not avoided in this manner, then this axiomatic result can only be altered after the fact by taxation and welfarism.

    If welfarism is eschewed or is inadequate under the above outlined rule-set, then the poor (unemployed and working poor) become progressively poorer until real limits are reached. The poor eventually will revolt in some manner (cease to be compliant) and perforce must do so or else starve eventually. The poor (like the rest of us) are corporeal beings with corporeal needs. These corporeal needs must be met or death will result. Humans as animals with a survival imperative (which can be treated as a biological law at least in the aggregate assessment of the probable behaviours of large numbers) will revolt against rules which would, in the continuance, condemn them to starvation.

    Real world (physical real system) opportunities and constraints can and do have an impact on the issues in the above Piketty inspired example. Due to dwindling resources (limits to growth hypothesis), it might not be possible to keep economic growth indefinitely above the returns to capital which tend to be set at certain levels in the extant economic system without regard (or enough regard) to external, long-term, real constraints.

    In turn, taxation and welfarism, at least in more robust forms as a counterbalance to the bias in the system (Piketty’s conditional statement represents a system bias to greater inequality under conditions of low growth) represent both inefficient “churn” and a correction of a large bias, with another excessive effort, after the fact of the bias. It is akin to extra steering effort for a car which has a steering geometry fault and veers constantly to the right unless corrected.

    It would seem logical in the system engineering sense, in the sense of engineering around the feedbacks in systems, be they steering systems or economic systems, to correct the inherent bias itself. For it is the case, as demonstrated by Joseph Stiglitz, (Noble Memorial Prize Economics), that greater inequality, at least beyond a tolerance threshold, leads to less economic efficiency and less economic production than would be possible otherwise. The above gives a first indication, in my view, of the possibilities inherent in a method which permits an integrated analysis of formal system / real system interactions.

  3. January 17th, 2017 at 09:09 | #3

    What is the need for having both the Message Board and the Sandpit? They are water-coolers for the same regulars.

  4. Paul Norton
    January 17th, 2017 at 10:10 | #4

    The comments by Ernestine and Ikonoklast remind me of a thought I had in the late 1980s when people of a neoliberal bent started drawing specious comparisons between, on the one hand, actual and proposed reforms in the countries of “actually existing socialism” to expand the role of private enterprise and markets and reduce the reach of the state, where the starting point was a totally marketless command economy that wasn’t working, and on the other hand proposed “reforms” in countries like Australia that would also expand the role of private enterprise and markets, and reduce the role of the state, where the starting point was a mixed economy that was working toleraby well. I recall thinking at the time that this was akin to arguing that, because it would have been desirable for Robert Ray to lose 30 kilograms, it was therefore equal desirable for Kylie Minogue to lose the same amount of weight.

  5. Ikonoclast
    January 17th, 2017 at 11:54 | #5

    @James Wimberley

    I always saw the Monday message board as a place for short thoughts, news, ideas, messages etc. The sandpit is as billed; “Side discussions and idees fixes”.

    A third item, “Weekly Reflections”, for longer posts has not appeared for a little while and Ernestine’s post would probably most properly go under a “Weekly Reflections” heading.

    My reply should properly go under “Weekly Reflections” or maybe into the Sandpit if people think (as they might well do) that I am banging on and on again about one of my idee fixes.

  6. Jim Birch
    January 17th, 2017 at 13:16 | #6

    @Ernestine Gross
    1. The economy is too difficult for humans, even economists, to understand. (Exhibit A: Economics.)
    2. Humans develop simplifications and heuristics to cope with this type of problem.
    3. These simplifications ignore or trivialize important system components, so while they may provide useful insight in some cases, they fail in badly in others.
    4. However, they are useful both psychologically, in that they avoid feelings of bewilderment and ignorance, and, practically, in that they allow actions to be formulated and taken, even if they are suboptimal.
    5. A further, and in my opinion extremely toxic and damaging downside is that people who are relieved of bewilderment by a cluster of beliefs become psychologically attached to them and start doing things that are counterproductive, crazy, and often plain nasty things. (This is the bit that I have the real problem with.)
    6. This is further compounded by the fact that human motivations, goals and imagination are fundamental to the operation of the economy, and that the economy is believed to have moral purpose.

    As I see it, the antidote to this situation is the good old scientific method (or as Yuval Harari put it so astutely, the discovery of ignorance.) This will produce feelings of humility which can be difficult at first but actually start to feel quite good with practice. To me at least.

    Economic theories do provide insights but they are fundamentally broken. The old methods of heuristic weather forecasting has been replaced by numerical prediction in models with increasingly process complexity and better resolution. That’s the kind of approach I expect economics to end up on but we still need some of the more of the underlying mechanics in place to really get started on this project. Unfortunately or fortunately this will not produce “It works like X!” statements, everything will be qualified.

  7. Ikonoclast
    January 17th, 2017 at 16:16 | #7

    @Jim Birch

    I find myself agreeing in large part with you just as I did with Ernestine in her original post. Yet I find myself disagreeing that the case for unravelable complexity is as bad as each of you seem to me to be positing. I think it’s the wrong approach initially and in principle to assume any problem is too complex to solve. We could have a long discussion about that claim I know.

    Thus I think it’s wrong to “give up” and say economics or rather political economy is too complex to solve. I mean solve to an acceptable degree in practice which must mean things like the issue of the minimum wealth condition gets sociology-politically, as well as technically, solved and implemented in practice once and for all.

    My wife studied economics at high school level. I don’t imagine at that level the issue or concept of the minimum wealth condition was much broached (I could be wrong I guess). Yet in a casual discussion about economics, society and current problems with our economy, without leading from me, my wife essentially expressed the concept of the minimum wealth condition. I guess it is present in minimum wage thinking with which most of us are familiar. She said pretty much that “People should get an income (from any source) such that they can participate generally in what society has to offer.”

    She was thinking particularly that every adult or adult group like couple, family etc. should be able to own their own dwelling (house, apartment, flat) and she linked this to a claim (I haven’t checked it) that renters suffer poor physical health and poor financial “health”. One could argue about correlation and causation around this but to cut a long story short I think she has a point.

    In my case, hearing ideas like this (from anyone) confirms me (confirmation bias?) in thinking that a more socialist approach will make more people physically and mentally healthy than does our current system as it moves ever remorselessly (correct word) in the direction of more market fundamentalism.

    If we want to invoke morality, I would say it’s morally wrong to give up on the search to unravel the complexities of political economy and to make a closer approach (we will never achieve perfection) to a system fairer than the current one as this current system (advancing neoliberalism or late stage capitalism) is exploiting and harming more and more people, more and more severely.

    My spidey senses tell me if we don’t change direction very soon, things could get very ugly, very quickly. We are accelerating towards a major crisis (of capitalism). The USA is on the brink.

  8. January 17th, 2017 at 17:23 | #8

    @ Ernestine. I enjoyed your piece.

    Steve Keen, if I recall correctly, recently argued somewhere that each economic school of thought is trying to answer a different question.

    To me, this is consistent with the General Semantics view that “the map is not the territory”. For instance you might think of each school of thought as a different map, or set thereof.

    The different schools are then not necessarily competitors. They may be complementary to each other.

    (Speaking for myself, I also find it useful to have labels such as “capitalism” and the like. It’s a mental way of grouping together a set of assumptions. It then becomes necessary for any two or more people discussing the ism to negotiate the meaning before they make much progress. But I think that’s useful.)

  9. Ernestine Gross
    January 17th, 2017 at 21:36 | #9

    A big thank you to each of the respondents to my little post. I used a very big brush to characterise the methodology of ‘schools of thought’ and I expected to get brushed aside. There are a few points I need to clarify to avoid misunderstandings. It is too hot today for me to do this now. But I can say now:

    Paul Norton, your comment support my belief in there being many people who make similar if not identical observations and draw similar if not identical conclusions to what I make. I have in mind your reference to your observations in the late 1980s. I love your apt analogy for the said methodological flaws.

  10. D
    January 18th, 2017 at 01:11 | #10

    Brilliant and disturbing piece of real journalism (the sort the ABC used to do) available to watch for the next few days on Al Jazeera called “The Lobby”. It is about UK politics.

    It is in 4 parts of about 30 mins each.

    It would be worthwhile to have something similar done for Australia, but “The Lobby” has been so successful here already that such a thing won’t happen.

    Check out this nice happy photo of a bunch of good friends and ideological fellow travellers sharing a moment while they enjoy what is really most important to them:

    http:[email protected]_-Twitter-2016-12-19-13-39-10.jpg

    Meanwhile, Australia killed yet another refugee in the ALP’s concentration camps.

  11. Wylie Bradford
    January 18th, 2017 at 09:48 | #11

    @Jim Birch

    I think the Austrian insight about knowledge is sound, but they spoil it by maintaining that verstehen can give access to a priori truths. Their point about knowledge does imply the ultimate futility of ‘top-down’ modelling though, and the history of modern economics is a history of modelling, with ultimately little return in terms of definite statements that are sufficiently generalisable beyond extremely contrived ex hypothesi situations.

    Perhaps the better way forward is to utilise agent-based modelling with zillions of simulations and see what rules of thumb we can discern about emergent properties and their relationship to changes in agent behaviour.

  12. derrida derider
    January 18th, 2017 at 10:49 | #12

    Paul @4 –
    But your analogy depends upon the ideal weight being somewhere between Robert Ray’s and Kylie Minogue’s. That’s an assumption you and I share, but the neoliberals start from the assumption that the optimal weight is less than Kylie’s. Given that, their argument that both should lose weight was perfectly valid so ’tis the starting assumption you needed to attack.

  13. david
    January 18th, 2017 at 13:33 | #13

    Please consider a few items which are not exclusive:-
    Abbott’s travel allowances and lies to the AEC re Hanson,
    Ley’s travel allowances,
    Brandis’ travel and other allowances,
    Julie Bishop’s travel allowances,
    Barnaby Joyces’ travel allowances,
    Brough’s diary theft.
    Ashby’s diary theft,
    Roy’s diary theft,
    Steve Lewis’ diary theft,
    Pyne’s procuring diary theft,
    AFP’s indifference to any of the above cf. its failed relentless pursuit of Peter Slipper over $900,
    AFP Raids on Labor offices re NBN lies,
    There is a common theme here warranting an enquiry into the AFP hierarchy and governance. It is the same AFP that begs for the public assistance in “dobbing in crooks” yet it stands by and possibly corruptly turns a blind eye to the above allegations.
    Anyone interested should go to “vinceogrady” blog site and read items concerning the Ashbygate issue OR equally his analysis of the travel entitlements scheme especially re Abbott.

  14. John Quiggin
    January 18th, 2017 at 16:43 | #14

    @James Wimberley

    Ikonoklast is right. Monday Message Board is for comments on any topic, unrelated to my posts. I direct commenters to the sandpit when I think they are derailing threads. I’ll bring back Weekend Reflections when I get organised again.

  15. Donald Oats
    January 18th, 2017 at 17:32 | #15

    A close examination of the surnames of people in power (be it government, AFP, or ABC) is often revealing, because of the cultural/religious and/or social roots that lie behind the names. Sadly, independence of an institution is often marred by the existence and perpetuation of such ties. They operate as cliques within the organisations that they (effectively) run, and that inevitably leads to the dominant clique’s unwritten rules being exerted upon the organisation.

    It isn’t conspiracy theory, but it does provide a point of understanding of the behavioural patterns of such organisations, especially those that have deep hierarchical structures within them, with associated longevity of employment within the organisation. In short, where people join, often through word of mouth or through familial ties to the organisation, and where people who “fit in” are invisibly protected and remain for their employed life; those who lack that protection either slip up and are pushed out, or come to realise they don’t belong—are made to feel as if they don’t belong—and leave. Religious organisations, police forces, defence forces, criminal networks, and some government agencies fit the pattern, often enough.

    When it comes to the interaction of two organisations which although very distinct nevertheless share similar cultural/religious/social roots, the phrase “one hand washes the other” is apposite. There doesn’t need to be overt influence for a clear pattern to appear; the history of what is diligently pursued as an important matter, and what is apparently ignored or buried, is itself suggestive of the existence of cliques of a similar mind.

  16. January 18th, 2017 at 18:24 | #16

    @John Quiggin
    Your blog, your rules.

  17. January 18th, 2017 at 23:09 | #17

    In three days, Donald Trump will be POTUS, and that should be worthy of a comment. The role of the internet and social media is very irrelevant. It turns out his use of Twitter was very effective, and the indications suggest he will continue with it, perhaps to the frustration of the traditional media who depend on press conferences. People forge, for example, the printing presses familiar to Benjamin Franklin and the Founders of the Republic were very different to TV studios.

  18. D
    January 18th, 2017 at 23:58 | #18

    “The Lobby” is also on you-tube.

    Part 1 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceCOhdgRBoc

    ..and the other parts follow on from that.

    Excellent journalism. A “must watch”.

  19. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 06:41 | #19


    Donald Trump is a mixed bag policy-wise but even there his negatives far outweigh his positives. When it comes to his demagogue style there are no positives. He is highly dangerous, confrontational and divisive. I expect US domestic politics and world politics to take a turn for the far worse as the globe gets a dose of the DTs (Delirium Trumpens).

  20. Ernestine Gross
    January 19th, 2017 at 06:54 | #20


    ” If I might sum this up, you are saying something like: The world is too complex to understand fully. Any model will be inadequate to the reality. In economics, any relational theory (in the hard scientific sense) which seeks to relate the time-space positions and properties of all existents (considered as constants, variables and possibly agents) to all other existents by all ‘paths of influence’ (as cause and/or information propagation) through the system, and thus gain a whole of system understanding, will be doomed to failure. Or at least, if not doomed to failure in principle, it is doomed to failure in practice by being distorted into ideology and used dogmatically and prescriptively.”

    No, I don’t say something like this. I have given my reasons why I am not and never have been a member of a ‘school of thought’ in economics.

  21. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 08:06 | #21

    Again, I may be misinterpreting you, but I get the feeling I have annoyed you by attempting, and failing obviously, to understand your views. I made a serious attempt to understand and then put my views.

    It seems to me you accept piecemeal analysis of parts of the economy but reject any attempt at a complete system understanding as per systems science. I think the method you implicitly endorse is lacking both as a research program and for practical application and will never (now) advance the broad field political economy (though it may advance econometrics, analytics? and other specific fields). This is just my opinion.

  22. Ernestine Gross
    January 19th, 2017 at 08:22 | #22

    @Paul Norton

    I consider your weight loss analogy to be apt because it captures the methodological fault of prescribing something irrespective of the empirically observable conditions. Weight loss is a ‘good thing’ if and only if a person is non-trivially overweight. It is a ‘bad thing’ if a person is on the lower limit of optimal weight.

    In contrast to the axiomatic approach to economic theory (math econ), ‘schools of thought’ models do not completely (or not at all – eg Fama’s efficient market hypothesis) make the assumptions explicit and therefore do not allow a systematic comparison of the theoretical conditions, upon which a result rests, with empirically observable conditions.

  23. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 08:35 | #23

    Footnote to above:

    I apologise. My reply was snarky.

    Let me lay this out. When I hear people say they don’t know what “capitalism” means or they don’t accept that the term has a clear meaning and/or refers to anything real, then I can think of six possibilities.

    (1) They are uneducated; or
    (2) They have gaps in their education; or
    (3) Their understanding is clouded by capitalist ideology, denialism or obscurantism; or
    (4) The are being deliberately obtuse for reasons obscure to me; or
    (5) They have arrived at this conclusion for complex reasons I clearly don’t understand; or
    (6) My understanding is clouded by Marxist, Marxian or even Socialist ideology.

    I believe I can exclude (1), (2), (3), (4), and (6 obviously) as affecting you.

    I also believe I can exclude (6) as affecting me but the nature of these things is that if one is in profound error one may well be wrong on that score. However, I find that Marxian insights, Piketty-ian insights and Complex Systems science insights all, or mostly, line up. I perceive a consistent thread through these things. I tried to lay it out in my long post. No doubt I have for long now been dismissed as a crank on this blog.

  24. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 09:02 | #24

    Oh, and a general apology to everyone. I can make these admissions anonymously easily enough. I am hypersensitive and far too quick to take offence. Then I snark back.

    I have BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). That’s an explanation not an excuse. And I am sure it makes me a complete pain in the neck to deal with much of the time.

    I have battled with BPD all my adult life. Or at least I have fought it as best I can since I was 33 and went clean. Before then I spend a decade and a half abusing drugs, alcohol, self-harming and engaging in risk-taking behaviours. It really was a relatively low probability event that I would survive or at least survive with relatively good health. I count myself lucky.

    So, to loosely quote Barry Humphries, “I try to live properly with the brain cells I have left.”


  25. Ernestine Gross
    January 19th, 2017 at 09:38 | #25

    NEWS: Mike Baird has resigned as Premier of NSW

  26. Ernestine Gross
    January 19th, 2017 at 09:40 | #26

    Ikonoclast, you don’t annoy me. And I am not easily offended. However, I am parsimonious with words.

  27. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 09:44 | #27

    @Ernestine Gross

    Whereas I am too prolix (usually).

  28. Tim Macknay
    January 19th, 2017 at 16:54 | #28


    I have battled with BPD all my adult life.

    Sorry to hear that. That cannot be easy. Apologies on my part for having been overly argumentative from time to time.

  29. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 18:03 | #29

    You, overly argumentative? If I made that judgement, I would certainly be the pot calling the kettle black. 😉

  30. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2017 at 18:06 | #30

    But I have posted a maths puzzle in the sandpit if anyone is interested in finding the solution. I have gotten close to the solution (sort of) with a spreadsheet and doing trials of different values.

  31. GrueBleen
    January 21st, 2017 at 08:54 | #31

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #1

    I don’t like –ism words such as communism, capitalism, neoliberalism, Thatcherism,

    Ah, does your dislike extend to words such as optimism, ecumenism and globalism ?

    Whether yea or nay, here’s one that may be new to you: economism. It’s the title of a new book written by James Kwak and highly recommended by Noah Smith.

    Just google James Kwak Economism for the book and Noahpinion Bloomberg “The Ways That Pop Economics Hurt America” for a review.

  32. January 22nd, 2017 at 22:13 | #32

    According to OxFam, we do live in interesting times of economism and globalism (https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/economy-99 OxFam, An Economy for the 99%: It’s Time to Build a Human Economy That Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Privileged Few)…

    This report together withe the following article is being shared on a number of European forums, but I have not come accross Down Under yet — The Guardian “Automated mining will cost jobs and tax income: it’s time for governments to act”

    From a distance, everything looks normal at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina and Nammuldi mines in Pilbara, Western Australia. Huge trucks trundle along the mines’ reddish-brown terraced sides laden with high-grade iron ore. Back and forth, almost endlessly.

    Watch for long enough, however, and you’ll see that no-one ever steps out of the cab. No lunch stops. No toilet breaks. No change of shift. That’s because these house-sized trucks are being remotely operated by ‘drivers’ based 1,200 kilometres away in Perth…

    “If you’re moving from mines that employ 5,000 to 10,000 people down to 500 or 1,000, then you’re obviously not going to get the same amount of local jobs,” says Howard Mann, senior adviser on international law at International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and co-author of a recent study on the impact of automation in the mining sector.

    According to the report’s findings, mine automation is set to hit resource-rich countries in the developing world hardest, with national gross domestic product potentially reducing by as much as 4% in some cases.

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